Today is the canonisation of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the tiny Albanian woman who changed the world by doing good in small ways. We know about the matters of concern. All frail humans are open to criticism and Saint Teresa and her mission are not immune to this. We , in our Church, are not triumphalist; we do not trade in fairy-tales or stories for children. There are, after all, few happy endings on the streets of Kolkata. Mother Teresa is declared a saint in full knowledge of the ‘failings’ of her mission, in the knowledge of her long, long, ‘dark night of the soul’.
She is canonised today under the papacy of Francis I, whose preference is also for the the poor, the weak and the powerless. As we stumble blindly through life, we are charged to protect the weakest in our society, the anawim of Jewish teaching, the widows and orphans. Our understanding has developed, of course: we understand about the perils of charity, the need for ’empowerment’ (my least favourite non-word of all time) and dependency. Do-gooders should no longer hector the poor, or attempt to convert them. But we must also have tenderness, that can only come from the heart.
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Note:This post takes its title from that of Malcolm Muggeridge’s book on Mother Teresa